Forum discusses election issues

Kristin Adams and Katy Murray
Staff Writers

Photo by Kristin Adams
I may disagree with what you say ... — Speakers at the forum included (left to right) Tim Jacobs of Save Term Limits, Stacy Fletcher from Arkansans for Human Rights, Republican John Jucas (behind podium), Monticello Economic Development Commission executive director Derrill Pierce and pastor Randy Magar of Star City's First Baptist Church.
   More than 50 people attended the Oct. 14 “Get Out the Vote” Election 2004 public forum hosted by the UAM Debate Team and the Voice, UAM’s online news source, in the Gibson University Center’s Green Room.

   Issues discussed covered the Presidential Election and proposed Constitutional Amendments 1, 2 and 3. Forensics coach Scott Kuttenkuler offered statistics to alert the audience about the voting problem.

   “In our country only 45 percent of Americans turn out to vote in Presidential elections,” Kuttenkuler said. “We rank fourth from the bottom in countries that vote for their leader.”

   As if illustrating the problem, the representative for the Democrats failed to show for the forum. However, John Jucas, a representative for the Republican ticket, spoke on behalf of President Bush and his administration. He expressed the importance of this election because the next president must set the course on war and the economy. According to Jucas, Bush believes in tax relief, ownership, opportunity and education.

   The next issue focused on Amendment 3, which proposes that marriage should apply only to the union of one man and one woman. Pastor Randy Magar of Star City's First Baptist Church and the Arkansas Marriage Amendment Committee brought up such elements as judicial imperialism, counterfeit marriage and the traditional nuclear family.

   “This is not about equal rights, not about discrimination, but about regulation,” Magar said.

   Stacy Fletcher, a representative from Arkansans for Human Rights, spoke in opposition to Amendment 3. She focused on the lack of disruption to heterosexual marriages caused by homosexual marriages, and the lack of corruption to the state of Massachusetts, which has legally allowed homosexuals to marry for the past two years. Fletcher finished by calling Amendment 3 a human rights issue rather than a moral or judicial issue.

   “Everyone deserves the same rights,” she said.

   Derrill Pierce, executive director of the Monticello Economic Development Commission, gave a speech that addressed the need for Amendment 2, which would permit the Arkansas General Assembly to approve development bonds for large economic development projects. He said the amendment would help Arkansas more effectively compete for new industrial installations, which could bring at least $500 million and hundreds of new jobs into the state.

   “A positive vote for Amendment 2 is nothing more than a positive vote for the state of Arkansas,” Pierce said.

   David Hoffman, from Term Limits That Work, asked for a positive vote on Amendment 1, which would extend the term limits for members of the state House of Representatives and Senate. On the current term limit system legislatures meet only 60 days for two years. Hoffman said he believes a legislator does not have enough time in office to learn the ropes and then develop enough seniority to influence decisions that affect Arkansans before his term has ended. He said voters can practice term limits every election by voting out legislators who are not doing a good job.

   “Those who like sausage and the law should never watch either one being made,” Hoffman said. “If you watch what goes into making laws then you will see the need to have a person who knows what they are doing.”

   Tim Jacob, a representative from Save Term Limits, opposed Hoffman’s position. He said he believes term limits have caused positive changes in the House of Representatives. Jacob said term limits have caused a 20 percent increase in African American representatives for Arkansas and a 50 percent increase in women representatives. He noted that in 1992, 17 of the 35 legislatures were lawyers. Currently the state legislature includes two lawyers, four retired school teachers, farmers, bankers, real estate agents and other professionals. Jacob described Amendment 1 as a “power-grabbing scheme of the legislators.”

   “If you want a fresh solution, we’re going to need fresh faces,” Jacob said. “To believe that the same people who created the problem are going to solve it is insane.”

   At the close of the event, journalism professor Dr. Ronald Sitton led a question and answer period where audience members questioned the panel and specific speakers. After a short heated discussion on Amendment 3, Kuttenkuler closed the event by thanking the audience and speakers and reminding everyone of their civic responsibility to vote Nov. 2.

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